OCD – A Mental Battle


by Chris Harris

This article addresses: depression, obsessive thoughts

Hi my name is Chris,

I am diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and struggle with intrusive thoughts. It’s not necessarily that I need to keep things tidy as some people think. In fact, for me, it is much more an obsessive state of mind that revolves around the ‘need’ for things to be a certain way. My symptoms range from some simple things like a series of checks and actions that I have to do before I go to sleep every night to the need to keep all of the information that comes my way and protectively store it. Sometimes it will manifest itself in my reading, where I keep track of the pace of my reading by tapping my fingers or toes to the "right" pace. And if I read a sentence that doesn’t fit with that pace I will read that same sentence seven times or more at different paces, tapping my fingers until I have read it in the "right" pace, before I can move on. I can’t stand when something is not complete, even now I remember when a waiter cleaned the table at a restaurant on and left out small areas on the far side of the table with her cloth. I still wonder now if it is cleaned fully yet and a part of me wants to take a cloth and go wipe that left out areas. It is not about the cleaning, but the fact that it was not complete.

There are many other things like that here and there, manifesting in different areas. I generally shop alone because on occasion it can take multiple hours to get 1 item, the "perfect" version of that item. I need things to be a certain perfect way, or to make sense. This is the worst as I have an unrelenting compulsion to make sense of a sequence of events, or to figure out the "perfect" solution to a certain problem or thought process. 

This can, I will admit, take a very long time. When I am in this frame of mind I often pace in an empty parking lot following the sides of the road or going around in circles. Sometimes I can pace for 4 hours straight running through thoughts, scenarios, and possible solutions in my mind. Most people wouldn’t give a second thought to most of these things, yet I am compelled. If I have a particular thought that does not make sense to me, I can continue pacing over multiple days. I will also write about it at length and talk to myself on a voice recorder (voicing the thoughts helps me), again sometimes for hours on end. It is difficult to stop. 

These compulsive thought patterns can be debilitating, leave me mentally exhausted, very stressed out and when things don’t seem to be the way I want them to be, it will lead to a frustration and depression. During these times it is difficult to be present in this beautiful world. You are locked in a battle with your mind and it is hard to leave that battle, even though you want to.

These times come and go, they are not always good and not always bad. I can go through carefree periods of mental ease, and there are periods where it is bad. Over the years, I have learned what sets this off, what helps, and how to deal with myself when I start going into a bad place. This includes not only the obsessive thought patterns and actions but also the resultant stress and depression. 

My obsession with documenting information helped me compile a list of what to do when I am in a bad place and the things that bring me back to a good place. It is a part of my life, and has sometimes become a gift in disguise. I share my experience and notes with other people who face the same challenges to let them know they are not alone and they are OK.

For many years I have dealt with it alone, but sharing my experience to help others is the silver lining of this cloud. You are not alone. You are OK.

The List

  1. Stop! Your happiness is important. Everything else takes a back seat.
  2. Forget the past and future. Enjoy each moment.
  3. Be with the people who love you.
  4. Exercise: reduces stress and releases endorphins.
  5. Take care of your appearance. Look good, feel good.
  6. Reach out for support.
  7. Do not use alcohol or other crutches. It is not a good idea!
  8. Be challenged. Enough to grow and learn, not too much to stress you out.
  9. Cut out the negative: people, media, etc.
  10. Good friends: good times, good feelings.
  11. Sleep is very important.
  12. Take the time to enjoy life. Away from work/school and stress.
  13. Get out of the cave.
  14. Play with pets.
  15. Eat Well.
  16. Do not worry about other people. You are more important at this stage.
  17. Keep a clean and tidy environment.
  18. Look for the good! Be positive and aware of the good things.
  19. Don’t take life too seriously. Keep it simple.
  20. Hakuna Matata. It means no worries, relax.